ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish School Board took action Dec. 15 related to trying to run a school system during an out-of-control coronavirus pandemic.
The board modified its discipline policies related to instruction via the internet, following a legislative uproar over discipline recommended for a Jefferson Parish student who had a BB gun showing in his room during a virtual class.
Board members also approved a $22,000 per month contract, for six months, with a Baton Rouge firm that will do twice-weekly “deep cleaning” in each of the parish’s four schools.
Board attorney Bob Hammonds said the Louisiana attorney general pushed through Act 48 of the most recent legislative session that requires each school board in the state to have a policy on discipline during virtual learning sessions.
The law also gives students recommended for expulsion the right to appeal the decision to the board and district courts, even if the punishment is reduced to a suspension.
Suspensions that are not first recommended as expulsions cannot be appealed to the board or a district court, according to state law.
The Jefferson Parish student was participating in a virtual class when his brother entered the room and tripped over a BB gun that was on the floor and not visible to other students. The student picked up the gun and moved to a location behind him, but in view of his teacher and other students, touching off the controversy.
Lee Hammer, director of facilities and maintenance, told board members he had used Robillard’s LLC twice during the school year to do extra cleaning above what the schools’ regular custodians can do, and he recommended an arrangement to have the firm clean the four schools twice a week for the remainder of the school year.
In addition to the relatively small number of custodians, several have had long absences this year unrelated to the coronavirus.
Robillard’s can put the necessary manpower into the schools to get them thoroughly clean in a short period of time after classes to help prevent the spread of the virus, he said.
Superintendent Hollis Milton said that students are now eating in their classrooms, rather than in their cafeterias, to help curb the virus’s spread, which increases the need for thorough cleaning of floors, desks and other surfaces.
Milton said $22,000 per month may seem like a high price for janitorial service until one considers the total area of the four large schools that are covered by the contract.
Food services director Pat Gilmore also announced she has obtained a $13,500 “No Kid Hungry” grant to buy equipment for beefing up the district’s “grab and go” breakfast program.
The nonprofit offered the grant to try to increase participation in the district’s operation to serve breakfast meals outside the cafeteria, she said.
Gilmore said an effort to increase the number of children participating will begin when classes resume after the holiday break.